'Torture by Any Measure': Israeli Hospital Sends Palestinian Prisoner Back to Jail Early to Spare Him Shackles

The ‘indescribable suffering’ caused by having his hands chained to his legs was greater than pain from the operation, and unnecessary, doctors say

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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The Ofer Prison in Israel, January 22, 2019.
Ofer Prison, on January 22, 2019. A criminal prisoner seemingly enters jail alone, while a Palestinian security prisoner is received enthusiastically by the organization he belongs to.Credit: Olvier Fitoussi
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

A Palestinian security prisoner who underwent abdominal surgery at a Jerusalem hospital was forced to defecate into a diaper because the prison service guards refused to release his restraints and allow him to go to the bathroom, disregarding the attending doctor's medical opinion.

In the end, the prisoner was released from the hospital earlier than advisable, his doctor said, just to relieve him of having to be restrained.

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The incident occurred in November, when the prisoner was taken to Shaare Zedek hospital for an operation. The guards refused to remove the restraints so he could go to the bathroom himself at night, although he had stitches, was not very mobile, and was being guarded by a number of prison service personnel. Part of the time he was cross-restrained, meaning his right hand was chained to his left leg, and vice versa.

His doctors decided to send him back to prison early, to relieve him. Dr. Alon Schwartz, head of Shaare Zedek’s trauma unit, wrote: “The patient was released from the hospital before the appropriate time... because I saw that his remaining in the hospital was causing him suffering. The team of doctors headed by me assessed that the indescribable suffering of continuous diagonal restraint without the ability to move is greater than the pain from the operation … This certainly wasn’t the ideal decision for the health of the patient.”

Schwartz added that after abdominal surgery there was no way that three armed guards would not be able to control a person groggy and in pain, and that he had made his feelings clear to the Prison Service.

The prisoner’s lawyer, Mufid Haj, told Haaretz: “This is one of the most shocking cases I’ve encountered. This is torture by any measure, behavior bordering on criminal by prison service men who restrained my client not because they were afraid of him but because he’s Arab.”

Haj added that he plans to sue the prison over the guards’ behavior.

The Israel Prison Service said in response: “The Prison Service acts in accordance with the law and is obligated to consider whether to restrain a prisoner in a public place. In this case it was out of concern as well as obligation to protect public safety that the prisoner was restrained. In light of the claims regarding his restraint the issues will be examined.”

According to the regulations, a prisoner is not meant to be restrained in a public place unless there is a real risk that he will try to escape or disrupt an investigation. Generally, the issue of restraining prisoners and detainees arises in connection with their transport to court, but recently doctors have also begun addressing the issue of prisoners who are brought for medical treatment.

In August, the deputy director of Shaare Zedek, Prof. Dan Turner, and Dr. Tami Karni, chairman of the Israel Medical Association’s ethics committee, wrote an article decrying the custom of restraining prisoner-patients.

“A substantial part of the problem is that we’ve become accustomed to the sight of restraints... Seeing restraints is so routine that our senses have been blunted," they wrote. "But when the phenomenon occurs within the walls of medical institutions, the medical community has the responsibility to ask questions and examine each case individually.”

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